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Discovering the Truth about Vaping. What Science Reveals And Warns About E-Cigarettes?

Delve into the health risks and warnings linked to vaping, uncovering the truth behind this controversial trend. 

The history of smoking goes back 7000 years, but until the 1800s, cigarettes became the smoke of choice. But then, with new technologies in 2003, China invented an e-cigarette. Since then, vaping and electronic cigarettes have exploded in popularity all over the globe. However, what are they, and are they a better way to smoke?

This article explores every aspect of vaping, its effects on human health, and why people choose it.

What is Vaping?

Inhaling the aerosol generated by an electronic cigarette or vape device is called “vaping.”All these E-cigarettes don’t use tobacco like regular cigarettes. They instead generate an inhalable aerosol by heating a substance, often nicotine, flavourings, and other compounds, to a high temperature. It has become more common in recent years, particularly among young people, and over 460 distinct electronic cigarette brands are available.

The Composition of E-Cigarettes

The vape devices come in various forms, including vape pens, mods, e-hookahs, sub-ohm tanks, and atomizer-based systems. While their appearances may vary, their functions are consistent.  

multiple types of e cigarettes 300dpi

A standard electronic cigarette has a battery, a heating element, and an e-liquid cartridge. When people inhale, the liquid in the cartridge is vaporized. The resultant aerosol or vapour is inhaled. Nicotine, flavourings, and other additives are only some of the substances included in e-liquid. According to CDC research, almost all e-cigarettes on the market in the United States contain nicotine. Still, all these components or ingredients heavily influence the possible health impacts. Thus, knowledge of them is crucial.

Effects of Vaping on The Body

The immediate e-cigarette user, when inhales nicotine, like other addictive substances, boosts dopamine and activates reward pathways.  Like smoking, they may experience increased heart rate, blood pressure, and heightened alertness almost immediately. These side effects have the potential to become habit-forming, adding to vaping’s enchantment.

There is still debate over the long-term effects of vaping, even though it is promoted as a less harmful option to smoking.

Cardiovascular Effects

Initial studies have shown that vaping may harm cardiovascular health in the short and long term use.

An analysis of e-cigarette’s potential effects on the heart and blood vessels published in 2017 suggests that e-cigarettes may harm users, especially those with preexisting heart conditions.

Another 2019 research using the same countrywide survey indicated that electronic cigarettes raised the risk of cardiovascular illness, heart attack, angina, and stroke.

In another research paper published in 2018 by the National Academies Press (NAP), nicotine e-cigarette inhalation significantly increases the heart rate and blood pressure simultaneously. Both may have an impact on heart health in the long run.

Smoking has detrimental effects on the body, but particulates, oxidizing agents, aldehydes, and nicotine are all found in e-liquid aerosols, according to the authors of a 2019 review. Aerosols like this probably affect the cardiovascular system when breathed.

Another 2022 research showed that when used regularly, e-cigarettes have been shown to severely reduce blood vessel function, leading to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The combination of e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes may pose even more significant risks.

It can also potentially interact negatively with some drugs, including those used to treat heart problems and high blood pressure. If looking forward to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, one must watch how much nicotine they consume and how often they use vape.

Effects on the Lungs

Studies suggest that electronic cigarettes may have harmful effects on the lungs.

The chemicals in e-liquids and those created during the heating/vaporizing process are inhaled by the user when they use an e-cigarette. It has been found in a study that e-cigarettes may contain low quantities of cadmium, a hazardous element contained in smoke that can cause lung issues and sickness. To name some other harmful compounds as per the research of 2020:

  • Cancer-causing chemicals such as acetaldehyde and formaldehyde
  • Weed herbicide acrolein which has been linked to permanent lung damage.
  • Benzene, a component of vehicle smoke
  • Diacetyl, a chemical related to bronchiolitis, also known as “popcorn lung.”
  • Antifreeze propylene glycol
  • Toxic metals like lead and cadmium
  • Microparticles.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report in January 2018 based on over 800 investigations, indicating that young people using e-cigarettes have an increased risk of coughing, wheezing, and asthma exacerbations.

Suddenly developing and sometimes fatal lung diseases are associated with vaping. In 2019, the CDC started investigating a rise in pulmonary injury (VAPI) cases. The acronym EVALI stands for “e-cigarette or vaping product usage-associated lung injury.

The symptoms of EVALI typically manifest progressively, beginning with shortness of breath and chest discomfort before more severe breathing difficulties necessitate hospitalization. Experts now suspect contamination with a form of vitamin E (vitamin E acetate) in certain e-cigarettes containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as the cause of EVALI. Other contaminants and factors (such as preexisting respiratory disease) may also be involved.

These vaporized cigarettes have also been the cause of several deaths in the US and around the world. Over 2,800 e-cigarette users required hospitalization due to EVALI in February 2020, with 68 deaths, mainly among adolescents and young adults.

The potential danger to one’s lungs from inhaling e-cigarettes is a significant concern. Long-term vaping has been linked to respiratory infections, decreased lung function, and inflammation.

vaping effects on body
Image Source: https://respiratory-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12931-021-01737-5/figures/1

Effects On Brain Health

Vaping has been linked to a variety of mental health problems, according to research.

Nicotine Exposure: Adolescents and young adults regularly exposed to nicotine are at increased risk for mental health problems. Tobacco use throughout peak brain development (ages 12–25) has been linked to irreversible impairments in cognitive ability.

Cognitive Effects: Evidence from studies suggests that vaping with nicotine might impair cognitive processes, including attention, memory, and learning.

Addiction and Reward Pathways Or Substance Abuse: The nicotine in e-cigarettes is addictive because it stimulates the brain’s reward system. Addiction is difficult to overcome because it disrupts regular brain function and behaviour, making it hard for people to give up harmful habits like smoking and vaping. Young individuals who start vaping may be more prone to participate in other harmful activities, such as substance abuse.

Effects on Oral Health

Vaping appears to impact oral health in several ways negatively.

Dry Mouth: Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a side effect of vaping that can increase the likelihood of dental caries, gum disease, and even poor breath(Halitosis) because it hinders the production of saliva, which washes away germs and acids that can wreak havoc on your mouth.

Gum Irritation: Nicotine found in the vape aerosol is known to constrict the blood vessels, leading to gum irritation and swelling. Another 2016 research found that e-cigarette use was linked to gum inflammation, increasing the periodontal disease risk factor. A 2014 analysis found similar evidence that vaping may irritate the mouth, throat, and gums.

Tooth Decay: According to research published in 2018, aerosol from electronic cigarettes may increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Researchers at the University of Maryland’s College of Medicine have shown that the chemical reactions triggered by vaping can kill off the healthy bacteria in the mouth while simultaneously growing the bad bacteria that cause cavities, gum disease, and cellular alterations that can lead to cancer.

Delayed Healing: The healing process following oral surgery, tooth extraction, or any other dental operation might also be slowed by vape use.

Finally, the same 2018 NAP research found that e-cigarettes, both with and without nicotine, may cause harm to the cells and tissues in the mouth, even in persons who don’t regularly smoke tobacco cigarettes.

Can Lead to Cancer

Evidence from preliminary animal research also suggests a possible higher cancer risk for individuals who vape. Lung cancer has been the primary research target. One animal study conducted in 2017 indicated that exposure to e-cigarette vapour increased the risk of lung cancer via altering DNA and genes.

There is concern that some ingredients in e-cigarette liquids may be carcinogenic to humans, as formaldehyde and N-nitrosamines, which may cause cancer, have both been found in e-cigarettes.

Considering some of the factors can give us a better understanding of vaping-related cancer risks:

Factor Description
Nicotine Content Associated with increased cancer risk
Juice Flavours Some, like diacetyl, are considered harmful
Potentially Harmful Ingredients Difficult for users to identify due to lack of labelling requirements

A recent 2023 study focused on using e-cigarettes as a risk of bladder cancer.

Genetic Changes Due to Vaping

Some research has shown that vaping may have genetic consequences, while much remains to be learned regarding the long-term effects of vaping on genetic material.

Concerns have been raised that vaping might affect the health of future generations by altering the genetic material in reproductive cells (sperm and eggs). Some animal studies of 2023 have revealed that vaping might cause alterations in the DNA of reproductive cells, although this is still an area of active research.

A study evaluated genetic changes using DNA methylation levels and epigenetic alterations in e-cigarette users, specifically EVALI patients. Most cases involved adolescents and young adults. Blood samples from vaporizers, smokers, and a control group showed significant reductions, suggesting vaping and smoking may influence epigenetic changes and overall health.

Other research on animals and cell cultures has found that vapour or extracts from vapes disrupt the chemical structure of DNA.

The following is the summarized data of te evidence-based data on vaping’s harmful effects on body.

Vaping Effects on Body 
Cardiovascular Effects
  • raises the risk of cardiovascular illness
  • stiffens artery
  • raises blood pressure
  • destroys blood vessel function
Mental Health Effects 
  • cognitive impairment
  • addiction
  • reduced mental performance in teens/adults
  • substance abuse
Effect on Lung Health 
  • asthma exacerbations
  • may lead to EVALI (vaping product usage-associated lung injury)
  • respiratory infections, inflammation with long-term use
  • lung scarring
Effect on Oral Health
  • delayed healing post-dental procedure
  • dry mouth
  • bad breath
  • gum irritation, swelling and infection
  • tooth decay
Genetic Changes
  • epigenetic alternation
  • changes in DNA reproduction
Cancer
  • lung cancer
  • bladder cancer

Vaping Vs. Smoking

While vaping and smoking entail inhaling chemicals, both materials have unique health risks.

Especially among young people, the rise of vaping has been meteoric. A survey conducted in 2022 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 14.1% of high school students reported current usage of e-cigarettes. The percentage of high school students who say they regularly use electronic cigarettes rose from 11.7% in 2017 to 13.1% in 2018. Also, the CDC found that 9.1% of persons aged 18 and up used electronic cigarettes in 2020.

In 2022, researchers examined the outcomes of exercise stress tests across vapers, smokers, and those who neither vape nor smoke. Performance was consistently lower in the vaping group than in the control group and marginally higher than in the smoking group. According to another survey, almost 40% of graduating high school seniors had smoked electronic cigarettes.

Is Vaping An Effective Tool For Quitting Smoking?

The invention of the vaporizer provided a new means of nicotine delivery. Many people are transitioning to electronic cigarettes to quit smoking, but some also engage in “dual use,” alternating between regular cigarette smoking and vaping.

Despite popular belief, vaping is as harmful to your health as smoking cigarettes.

It might seem a safer alternative for smokers seeking to kick the habit. However, just because the vape fluid contains less nicotine doesn’t imply it’s risk-free. The amount of nicotine in one vape pod is equivalent to smoking twenty cigarettes, which isn’t unhealthy.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has not yet approved vaping as a viable means of quitting smoking. However, some evidence indicates it might also aid in quitting smoking for specific individuals, but these are only viable for short-term periods.
The American Heart Association also does not encourage e-cigarette usage for cessation attempts because of the absence of long-term scientific safety evidence on e-cigarette use and the possibility of addiction to e-cigarette products found among youngsters.
Also, it’s unclear how well it aids in smoking cessation compared to other techniques, such as the nicotine patch.
vaping
Image Source: https://respiratory-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12931-021-01737-5/figures/2

In 2019, a publication of research involving 90 smokers revealed that vaping may be more addictive than smoking traditional cigarettes.

Quitting smoking is a complex but necessary step toward improved health. To assist you in breaking the habit, we have a dedicated article with some suggestions. Click here to read. Remember that e-cigarettes aren’t the answer to helping people quit smoking; patient motivation is. So, consult your physician before utilizing electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid.

The rapid growth in e-cigarette usage and ongoing debates about their safety have raised concerns about the potential health effects of vaping. Although vaping seems a safer alternative, its impacts on human health cause worry. And the available data suggest that vaping is harmful, especially among young individuals and those who have never smoked.  The long-term effects of vaping are still being studied.

According to federal and state health officials, it may be some years before we clearly understand the dangers, but it should be avoided entirely until more is known. If you decide to vape, it’s best to stay with legitimate brands that haven’t been tampered with.

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Aimen

Being a Doctor by profession, Aimen is passionate about helping people get better health in their lives. Aimen enjoys her research on Prime With Time subjects and strives to create better awareness of the problems and changes related to women's health.
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